Leshan Giant Buddha
Around a 2-hour drive from downtown Chengdu lies one of the most marvelous ancient wonders of China, the Leshan Giant Buddha, also known as Lingyun Giant Buddha. Carved into a cliff-face along a peaceful river, this imposing figure, at 71 meters (over 200 feet) in height, dates back over a thousand years and is the largest and tallest stone Buddha statue in the world.
Carved in the 8th century during the Tang Dynasty, the Leshan Giant Buddha was built during a peak period of Buddhist culture in ancient China. The sculpture depicts Maitreya, a very popular Buddha in the Tang Dynasty. The sutras say that when Maitreya comes into world, the world will be at peace. The female Chinese female sovereign Wu Zetian even proclaimed she was the reincarnation of Maitreya and was a strong advocate of Maitreya sculptures being built as a way to maintain her rule. People liked to carve Maitreya sculptures and believed that Maitreya would bring light and happiness into their lives in the future.
This remarkable historic site was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. It is an amazing and immense religious relic that was built over a period of 90 years from 713 to 803 AD. The statue was constructed at the confluence of three rivers notorious for their turbulent waters; it was hoped that the Buddha’s presence would help calm the rivers’ waters.
Hai Tong’s Legacy
The Buddhist monk Hai Tong was concerned about the safety of the local people who earned their living around the three rivers. Many people traveling by boat in the area were killed by the turbulent waters each year before the Leshan Giant Buddha was created. Hai Tong decided to carve a statue of Buddha beside the river and believed that this sculpture would appease the river gods and keep the locals safe.
He had begged for over 20 years to accumulate enough money needed to build this statue. During this hard period in his life, he refused official help because the parties who offered it didn’t just want to help him but wanted to gain personal profits from the project. He even gouged out his eyeball in protest against the local authorities. These officials backed off after this behavior. Fortunately, Hai Tong’s disciples continued his work after he passed away and finally completed the sculpture in 803 AD after 90 years of hard work.
There is a cleverly designed drainage system behind the Buddha’s head and between his two ears. This important design aspect is the reason why the great Buddha of Leshan has not eroded despite having existed for thousands of years. The “spectacle”
Interestingly, there haven’t been any shipwrecks since the Buddha was built. Many stones were actually removed from the cliff and transferred to the rivers during construction, which made the waters calmer and safer than before. The project didn’t end after the Leshan Giant Buddha was finished.
Buddhism had been one of the most important religions in ancient China and many other people built statues around the giant Buddha to thank the gods . Numerous small Buddhas were carved around this huge statue. People even excavated the cliff tombs of the Han Dynasty around the Leshan Giant Buddha. Multiple historic sites make the Leshan Giant Buddha particularly important for archaeologists and researching people’s lifestyles in ancient times.
With the most sunny days and beautiful scenery, April and October are the best months of the year to travel to see the Leshan Giant Buddha.
There are two ways for visitors to see the Giant Buddha. One is to walk down from the top near the head and end at its feet. This involves some waiting in line, sometimes for hours on particularly busy days, and larger crowds, as well as many narrow and steep stairs, but offers you a more intimate perspective of the Buddha. This up-close view will allow you to appreciate the statue’s enormity; its shoulders spread over a width of 28 meters (as long as a basketball court!) and its pinky toe is large enough for a person to sit on.
The other option is to view the statue from a boat on the river immediately in front of it. The boat trip allows you to get the best and fullest front-facing view of the Buddha from a distance and is ideal for those who prefer not to wait in line and climb the stairs. The cruise takes around 30 minutes there and back, stopping for several minutes in front of the Buddha for visitors to appreciate the statue and take pictures. It’s best to sit on the right side of the boat, as the Buddha will end up being on that side once you arrive.
Source: https://www.trippest.com/chengdu-travel-guide/leshan-giant-buddha/ https://www.thechinaguide.com/sight/leshan-giant-buddha#:~:text=It’s%20best%20to%20sit%20on,worth%20seeing%20from%20both%20angles.